The View from Baghdad

August 20, 1991

The outcast Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein welcomed the restoration of conventional Communist authority in Moscow. This sentiment will be felt wherever rogue regimes survive that received aid and comfort from Leonid Brezhnev that dried up under Mikhail Gorbachev.

There are terrorists hoping once again for Soviet sponsorship of terrorism, dictators wanting pay-offs for thwarting U.S. policies, petty conquerors hoping for weapons at old concessionary rates, enemies of Israel hoping for Moscow to renounce its proposed co-sponsorship of a peace conference.

All their hopes are probably in vain.

The Soviet army is unlikely to want to march back into Afghanistan, where Soviet clients thrive without it. The new regime is likely to seek continued harmony with the United States while it turns attention inward, harmony it cannot have by fomenting revolution in the Western hemisphere. Africa is likely to rank low among its priorities.

Yet this is speculation. The new Soviet regime must demonstrate its policies. It can, if it wishes, justify the faith of Saddam Hussein; or pull the rug from a Middle East peace conference; or replace the former Czech supply of plastic explosives for terrorists. But such activities would gain nothing and cost much.

Some regimes, of course, do things contrary to their own interest. And for that reason, the new Moscow power center must be watched for what it chooses to do. This may slow down developments where positive Soviet behavior is essential, and even some where a mere absence of bad behavior is all that is required. The reactionary forces that seized power in the Soviet Union undoubtedly did so to preserve domestic tranquillity and their own privilege, not to carry Saddam Hussein's water. They ought to tell him so very swiftly.

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